SAN FRANCISCO — President Joe Biden will hold a meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday, kicking off his last day in San Francisco for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings.
The leaders will discuss “how we can continue to work together as partners to manage migration at our shared border and mobilize a hemispheric-wide response to this challenge,” according to a statement from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announcing the meeting.
Ahead of their bilateral meeting, Biden thanked the Mexican president for previous efforts to address migration, pointing to their joint efforts in enforcing borders and opening legal pathways for migrants.
“I want to thank you, Mr. President, and your team, I really mean it, for the cooperation and your leadership in taking on this challenge. I know it’s not easy,” Biden said alongside López Obrador in remarks to the press
López Obrador thanked Biden for his work on opening legal pathways for migration.
“I would also like to express and to state that he is the first president in the United States in recent times who has not built walls,” López Obrador added through an interpreter, in an apparent reference to former President Donald Trump. (The Biden administration has, however, waived federal laws to permit more border wall construction in Texas.)
Biden and López Obrador met in Mexico City in January, where they discussed counternarcotic efforts, economic integration, climate commitments and “irregular migration,” according to a White House.
“Their meeting builds upon 200 years of bilateral relations between the United States and Mexico, an enduring partnership that reflects our shared values and the cultural and familial bonds between our two countries,” the White House said.
The meeting between Biden and López Obrador “is obviously going to be dominated by the one issue that has dominated U.S. diplomatic bandwidth with Mexico during the Biden administration, which is how to contain migration flows to the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Arturo Sarukhan, a former Mexican ambassador to the U.S.
Republicans have long criticized Biden’s — and Democrats’ — stances on the U.S.-Mexico border. But Friday’s meeting comes as Biden has also faced criticism from Democratic leaders, who say they need more help from the federal government on handling an influx of migrants to their states or cities.
“As just one state in our union, we cannot lead coordination efforts at the border,” said Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker in an October letter to Biden. “It is time for the federal government to take a much more active role in managing the transport and destination of the transport of asylum seekers.”
The reason the border issue looms so large, Sarukhan said, is because “all roads to the Republican presidential nomination lead through the U.S.-Mexico border.”
In September, the administration extended temporary protected status to more Venezuelan migrants, which allowed about 200,000 migrants to get work authorization. The White House also provided 800 additional active-duty personnel to support border efforts, the Department of Homeland Security said.
The White House has repeatedly called on Congress to enact immigration reform.
“As a result of Congress’ failure to enact the reform, the Administration has been using the limited tools it has available to secure the border and build a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system while leading the largest expansion of lawful pathways for immigration in decades,” a Homeland Security fact sheet from September said.
If Biden can point to a relatively stable dynamic on the U.S.-Mexico border, “particularly in the home stretch in the late spring and summer of next year, that will be a boon to President Biden’s electoral narrative going into November,” Sarukhan said.
Friday caps off a string of meetings between Biden and foreign leaders this week, notably including Chinese President Xi Jinping, which ended a yearlong communications drought between the two leaders.
Later on Friday following the president’s meeting with López Obrador, Biden will host an APEC Leaders Retreat and transfer the chair position to Peruvian President Dina Boluarte, according to the White House schedule.
Biden will then travel to Wilmington, Delaware, where he will spend the weekend.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com